I Used an Indoor TV Antenna for a Week. Here’s How It Went

Indoor TV antenna attached to wall.

I Used an Indoor TV Antenna for a Week. Here’s How It Went

Key Points

  • Indoor TV antennas allow access to basic broadcast channels that are not included in IPTV packages.
  • Indoor TV antennas have limited channel options and no on-demand or DVR functionality.
  • Having an indoor TV antenna alongside an IPTV subscription provides access to both broadcast and premium channels.
  • Indoor TV antennas and IPTV can complement each other for a variety of viewing options.

The number of people under 30 paying for cable has plummeted tremendously over the last decade or so. In 2015, two-thirds of the 18-29 crowd was paying for a cable subscription. By 2021, that number had fallen to just one-third. Today, in 2023, that fraction is likely even smaller. I know I, for one, have never paid for such a subscription from a cable or satellite provider. Instead, I put my faith in Internet Protocol TV (IPTV). However, I found myself missing the basic broadcast channels like Fox, NBC, and ABC. So, I decided to try an indoor TV antenna. Here’s how my week went.

Do Indoor TV Antennas Actually Work?

An indoor TV antenna with no signal.
An indoor TV antenna picks up signals over the air and broadcasts them to your TV.

IPTV is great and all, but many providers don’t include access to the most basic broadcast channels in their packages. From live sporting events to televised awards shows to popular primetime programs, services like Sling and Philo don’t let you watch Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, or any of the 50+ other over-the-air TV networks you can pick up for free with the help of an antenna.

So, I ordered one. It wasn’t too expensive, either. Only about $10, shipping included. While we all have a stereotypical image of a TV antenna in our minds — two thin, retractable silver rods that you can manipulate and angle to get the best signal — this modern model looked nothing like what I expected. It’s as thin as cardboard paper and the size of a magazine with a small port on one end.

The indoor TV antenna came with a coaxial cable, too. I plugged one end into the antenna and the other into the designated port on my TV. Then, I attached the antenna to the wall behind the television using the adhesives included in the box. After that, I switched inputs on the TV and waited for the channels to index.

To my surprise, the thing worked remarkably well. I was looking at my local NBC station’s evening news broadcast as clearly as could be. Audio and video glitches were extremely minimal. (I chalked them up to the fact that it was a little cloudy out at the time.) Thus began my week of using an indoor TV antenna.

How an Indoor TV Antenna Differs From IPTV

HDMI and coaxial cable attached to back of TV.
Instead of using HDMI, an indoor TV antenna relies on a coaxial connection.

IPTV relies on the Internet to deliver your broadcasts. Instead of using an antenna to receive signals, IPTV streams content over your Internet connection. You’ll need a set-top box or a smart TV app to access the service. IPTV providers typically give subscribers access to around 100 cable channels, on-demand shows, and a cloud DVR for one monthly fee. Your streaming quality depends on your Internet speed (and, for some providers, the price you pay for either HD or 4K).

In my experience, an indoor TV antenna offers next to none of these features. Your channel count is extremely limited and doesn’t venture into the cable television range. (That means no A&E, no AMC, no TNT, no Comedy Central, no Discovery Channel, and so on.) You also have no on-demand functionality and no DVR service with your antenna. It’s simply a device you use to reel in the basic channels being broadcasted over the air at all times.

However, the access gained to channels like Fox, CBS, NBC, the CW, ABC, and PBS helps make up for the lack of these alluring IPTV features. Over my week with the indoor TV antenna, I was able to watch the news on NBC, a football game on CBS, Shark Tank on ABC, the new Ken Burns documentary The American Buffalo on PBS, and even tune into the new fall primetime lineup on the CW. In essence, I was trading access to cable for access to broadcast TV.

Is an Indoor TV Antenna Worth It?

Indoor TV antenna broadcast with signal interference.
On rainy days, you may not get the clearest signal from an indoor TV antenna.

While I liked being able to watch the broadcast networks I didn’t have access to before, I didn’t like how I had to watch them live if I wanted to see them at all. With no DVR functionality, there was no way for me to tape a show to watch later. (In other words, you have to do things the old-fashioned way with an indoor TV antenna.) In my view, having an indoor TV antenna alongside an IPTV subscription is the way to go. It’s the best of both worlds.

Over my first week with the antenna, I concluded that it was worth keeping around because it provided access to my local channels for free. I enjoyed the mix of live news, sports, and network shows without any monthly fees. I think this will be a great complement to IPTV, which remains just an input change away on my smart TV interface. This way, I can enjoy premium channels over the Internet while still having access to broadcast channels when needed.

They complement one another quite nicely. When there’s a big sporting event or awards show on one of the Big Three broadcast networks, I can switch inputs to my indoor TV antenna and tune in live. But, when bad weather or another obstruction is interrupting the signal, I can switch back to IPTV and watch something else. Likewise, I can record my cable network programming on IPTV and watch it later on the DVR while watching something live over the antenna. I plan to keep the indoor TV antenna adhered to the wall for the foreseeable future. (Negatives aside, it was just $10, after all.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an indoor TV antenna?

An indoor TV antenna is a device designed to capture television signals broadcast over the air by local TV stations. It allows you to access these signals without the need for a cable or satellite subscription. It works by receiving electromagnetic signals transmitted by local television stations. These signals contain the information needed to display the TV programs on your screen.

Do I need to pay for channels with an indoor TV antenna?

No, you don’t need to pay for channels received through an indoor antenna. It provides free access to local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and more. The number of channels you can receive with an indoor antenna largely depends on your location and the number of local TV stations in your area.

Do indoor TV antennas broadcast in SD or HD?

Yes, most indoor antennas are designed to support high-definition television (HDTV) broadcasts, providing you with clear and crisp picture quality over SD broadcasts. Any modern TV with a coaxial input can work with an indoor antenna. Older TVs may require a digital converter box.

Do indoor TV antennas provide access to cable channels?

No, indoor antennas only capture over-the-air broadcasts from local stations. They do not provide access to cable channels or premium networks like ESPN or HBO. For these channels, you’ll need a cable, satellite, or IPTV subscription. You will also need one of these subscriptions to access DVR features and on-demand content.

Are indoor TV antennas affected by bad weather?

Yes, bad weather conditions such as heavy rain or thunderstorms can cause temporary signal disruptions with indoor antennas. This signal loss can lead to pixelation or signal loss. Standing in the way of the antenna occasionally causes a similar loss of signal. The signal usually stabilizes once the weather clears or the object is moved out of the way.

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